Fred’s Lounge in downtown Mamou, Louisiana isn’t a big place. In fact, depending on which way you’re driving, you could drive past it and never know you missed it. It’s not fancy and if you weren’t aiming for it, it probably wouldn’t entice you to stop by its appearance. Fred’s is only open for about six hours a week, from about 8 a.m. to about 2 p.m. every Saturday morning, so if you came through Mamou at any other time it would be closed anyway. But during those six hours, it is a magical place to be.
For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I have a very special place in my heart for the Mississippi Delta and for the Delta Blues in particular. If you visit Clarksdale these days, in the very heart of the Delta, you can find live blues seven days a week, although it’s taken a concerted effort over many years to make that happen. It’s amazing, but it exists in a museum state. By that I mean that while you can see it in a great juke joint like Red’s, you will watch it sitting down on what was once the dance floor. The Delta Blues is dance music, it’s meant to move you and get your whole body going. But now we watch it from our chair, quietly clapping after each song like we’re at the theater. And I’m very glad we can see it in the place it originated, even in if it’s in this way. When it comes to Zydeco, I’m thankful I had the opportunity to visit Slim’s Y-Ki-Ki and Richards while they were still going strong. Both are gone now, and you’d be hard pressed to find live Zydeco in Opelousas, the Zydeco Capital of the World. Which is why Fred’s is so important, and why it holds such a special place in my heart. Every Saturday morning, for the last fifty plus years, locals and tourists alike gather to listen to live Cajun music, drink beer and bloody marys and dance and stomp the day away. At Fred’s, Cajun music is alive and well and still moving people the way it has always been meant to.
By 9 a.m. the place is packed, with people standing shoulder to shoulder and couples dancing all around the center of the room. We talk and laugh and clap along to the accordion and the Cajun beat. It’s loud and rowdy, but in a good and wholesome way - just unadulterated fun in the heart of Acadiana. If you get there at a busy time of year like around Mardi Gras, the crowd spills out the doors and onto the lawn. From 9-11 every week, the party is broadcast live on KVPI 1050 AM (or streaming online HERE), with news and weather being announced in English and Cajun French. It’s a real, honest-to-God cultural phenomenon which anyone can come and experience for themselves. And you should! I first came to Fred’s over a decade ago, and I was so happy to find it still going strong on this most recent visit. I hope it continues to for many years to come. While you can find Cajun music at bars and festivals all over the region most weekend nights and at the frequent festivals throughout the year, there’s no place quite like Fred’s Lounge in Mamou on a Saturday morning. Mamou is the Cajun Music Capital of the World, and I’m glad you can still see live Cajun music there, and dance along the way you’re meant to.